In Sales Incentives

Retail professionals know that there are few more valuable incentives than a well-executed sales SPIFF program to drive sales of a specific brand or line of products through a trade partner channel. However, a sales SPIFF program that is needlessly complex or doesn’t provide a valuable incentive to the salesperson can cause significant bad feelings towards the brand so it is important to tread carefully. Fortunately, there are key steps that you can follow when implementing your sales SPIFF program that will help your team become successful and drive exceptional sales towards your brand or product line. When you pair your SPIFF program with detailed training, provide multiple payout tiers for high performers and offer non-monetary awards, you’re providing a powerful loyalty incentive to your partner’s sales teams.

Background and Benefits of Sales SPIFFs

Offering a small, immediate incentive to salespeople in exchange for a recommendation or demo is a practice that’s been used for decades. Restaurants and retailers have been documented to use these stimulus packages since the 1900s and they are especially prevalent in the furniture and home appliance categories where sales are large enough to support a lucrative enticement to salespeople to recommend a specific brand. There are serious benefits for brand managers who implement a SPIFF program, such as:

  • Adding long-term visibility to a brand and edging out competitors. Salespeople are likely to think more favorably of your brand when you’re providing them with awards for recommendations.
  • Drive quick wins over a short period of time. If you’re nearing the end of a quarter and have excess inventory, offering a sales SPIFF to salespeople can help clear the decks for new offerings while still meeting sales numbers.

However, there can be some challenges associated with creating a workable sales SPIFF program that meets sales quotas, provides easy reporting and allows for adequate training of sales teams to ensure that the desired outcomes are met.

Administering a Typical SPIFF Program

In a perfect world, a brand’s product owner defines the way a sales SPIFF program will work by determining eligibility, incentive levels, success metrics and product requirements. Once scripted, these details are clearly communicated to channel partners and their sales team — who now has additional monetary motivation to recommend your brand or product. In a perfect world, full integration allows for easy reporting of eligible sales or demos and salespeople are quickly paid their incentive checks without hassle. There are a few bumps in the road to consider before moving towards implementation, and most of the challenges revolve around effective communication throughout the sales cycle.

Critical Data Points

There are several critical data points that can separate a strong sales incentive program from one that ends up frustrating salespeople and disenchanting them with your brand. An integrated approach that fully leverages the deep data collection and analysis can dramatically increase the efficiency of your overall sales channel, as well as strengthening the bond between your SPIFF and all channel sales. Specific data collection of actionable information about your customers adds value to any incentive program, as it can help you make better product decisions in the future. Data points are defined at the beginning of the process, and tailored to your unique needs and requirements. These data points can include:

  • Customer persona information
  • Multi-channel insight into customers and channel partners
  • Effectiveness of various sales channels
  • Broad consumer behavior

Add Training to SPIFF Promotions

A well-trained salesperson fully understands not only the benefits of the sales SPIFF program they are working in, but also the core differentiating factors of the brand and can communicate them effectively to prospective customers. Training is an essential part of any SPIFF program, providing sales teams with the confidence to recommend your product line above a competitor in a variety of different settings and applications. Training also provides an additional touchpoint with your channel partners, and reinforces your brand as a trusted partner willing to provide value to salespeople without aggravation.

Creating SPIFF Tiers

Multi-channel sales incentives should provide all types of performers an incentive to sell, and creating tiers within your program encourages salespeople to strive for a more lucrative level. A plateau program offers different types of awards for program achievement, such as meeting a certain unit goal within a set period of time. When creating SPIFFs, it’s important to keep in mind the type of reward that is likely to catch an employees eye — but money does not have to be the only offering. There are also merchandise options, gift cards, contest entries or travel incentives — all of which add up to happy salespeople. Many organizations have found that there’s a happy medium between offering all-cash incentives and providing engaging awards, with cash prizes making up the lowest tiers and merchandise or travel options providing a top-tier plan for ultra high performers.

Promote Your Incentive Plan

It’s not enough to define the ideal incentive structure, create an easy training plan and an intuitive feedback mechanism. You also have to determine how to promote your incentive plan to channel partners in a way that will catch their attention and ensure that salespeople sit up and take notice. A comprehensive campaign strategy delivers the tactics you need to successfully engage the sales team in promoting your brand. Timing is also critical, as a too-short promotion doesn’t have time to catch hold and a longer sales SPIFF option may promote fatigue in the sales team. If your incentive is the best kept secret in the land, no amount of technical know-how will save the day. Unlike incentive plans of the past, data-driven incentives can be promoted in a variety of different digital formats: via targeted email and banner ads, for instance. Offering a written overview in the form of an infographic provides a tactile reminder of the incentive for salespeople.

Creating a workable sales SPIFF program has its challenges. However, sales incentives are an exceptionally effective tool to drive brand engagement, unit sales and positive energy with channel partners when data insights, communication plans and payment strategies are fully defined and executed.

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